Blackhawk Lawsuit

Thursday, January 23, 2014
By George Hatcher

Photographer Clark Moody

Benjamin Franklin-Poor Richard’s Almanac
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

I’m not a pilot or a helicopter designer. I’m not an aviation engineer, or an aviation mechanic. Not an Aeronautical Scientist, Aerospace Engineer or Aviation Safety Inspector.(Although I do have the resources of 500+ experts in my Anonymous Experts database. I don’t consider myself an expert but I quote the experts.) I’m not even a farrier who pounds nails into horses’ hooves. What I am is a guy who works with people who were in aviation crashes; and I haven’t a clue what a “yaw boost servo” is, but that’s what failed in a Black Hawk crash, injuring two people and killing two. The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk was owned by the US Army and crashed in Texas A&M College Station, TX.

Someone in the Army performed a tedious and detailed technical readiness assessment to make the decision to purchase this Black Hawk in good faith.

Someone was trusting that Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Sikorsky Support Services, United Technologies Corp., Parker-Hannifin Corp. and Parker Aerospace Group had all their ducks in a row, all the T’s crossed, all the i’s dotted. That is to say that all the helicopter designers, aviation engineers, aviation mechanics, Aeronautical Scientists, Aerospace Engineers and Aviation Safety Inspectors (and all the unnamed professionals of the aforementioned companies) who had brainstormed to create this marvel of engineering, then pushed it to its limits and found it to be without flaw. The helicopter was conceived by, designed by and built by companies who have convinced the world that they know helicopters better than anyone else alive. No one knows more than they how important those tests are.

There were indications of problems long before the flight. I glanced online 2005 notices of the coast guard seeking sources for the servos repair—servos to be used on the Sikorsky H-60 class helicopter. One match does not a conflagration make, but I only looked online for about ten seconds.

The short story: the crew took off in the helicopter, and then it spun to the left until it wrecked. Can you imagine how helpless the pilot and copilot felt? How helpless the two crew who could do nothing? There was that moment aboard when some of them or all of them realized the helicopter was probably going to kill them.

So the “yaw boost servo” contributed to the pilots being unable to control the helicopter. The loss of control and crash were due to the failure of a part. It’s that old thing—kingdom lost for want of a nail.

A couple of people on that helicopter survived. One of them, Matthew J. Smith filed a lawsuit Jan. 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Sikorsky Support Services, United Technologies Corp., Parker-Hannifin Corp. and Parker Aerospace Group, citing negligence, seeking damage over $100,000. That’s a lot of money for want of a nail. But our armed forces are risking their lives. They need the most reliable equipment—100,000 will not be nearly enough.

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